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Three London boroughs are working towards combining their procurement departments into one.
Westminster, Hammersmith and Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea councils already collaborate in a number of areas but Anthony Oliver, CPO at Westminster City Council, said they aimed to go further.
“Ultimately we are working towards a single procurement organisation for the three boroughs,” he said, while declining to reveal a timetable for the process.
In 2011 the three authorities – which have a combined spend of £1.2 billion – set out plans to save £33.4 million by 2014/15 by sharing services such as adult and children’s services, libraries and back office functions.
“It’s a work in progress. In the meantime the three procurement organisations do work collaboratively,” said Oliver.
Oliver joined the council as an interim CPO in mid 2010 and was appointed to the post full-time in November 2012.
He “kicked off a transformation programme” that included introducing a category management system and ensuring all spend above £100,000 went through the procurement department.
“We had a great reputation as a council for innovating. We had a great reputation for doing some fantastic procurements, but it was a case of taking the organisation on the next stage of the journey,” he said.
“It was making sure we were an organisation that was more commercial than perhaps we had been.”
Westminster is a member of the West London Procurement Board, made up of nine authorities. It recently launched an e-procurement framework that will be available to 17 London boroughs.
“I’m quite happy to collaborate with as many councils who want to on procurement opportunities,” said Oliver.
However, he had reservations about the suggestion of a centralised procurement service for local government along the lines of the Government Procurement Service (GPS) and the Crown Commercial Service.
“We work with GPS where it makes sense but if it provides greater value for Westminster to run its own procurement, or call off from other frameworks, then we will do so,” said Oliver.
“Different authorities have different needs and requirements.
“If you look across London most authorities are decentralised: the procurements are being delivered by the service areas. Do I think there are efficiencies in centre-led procurements? Yes, of course I do.”